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Justice and My Pocketbook
Written by Diana Smith, International Policy Intern
You can go to the site http://www.globalrichlist.com/ and see how your salary compares with the rest of the world earnings. Even on my stipended internship, I’m in the top 12% of world earners, which is ironic considering I work at a non-profit organization to end poverty and hunger. I know that cost of living and purchasing parity distorts that – but I want to step back and ask myself how well I’m using that money.
I live within my budget, putting a little aside for savings, and using money charitably as well. I’m not as radical as Shane Claiborne and sewing all my own clothes – but I do get most of them from thrift shops. Is that enough?
I find myself perplexed in how to go about truly living out the change that I seek. I’ve heard that the economy is driven by consumption, and a market slump caused by decreased demand would leave many unemployed. Clearly I don’t want that; people need to be able to earn a living. Entrepreunerialism is what made the US the superpower it is, and why many people are paying attention to India and China and their phenomenal growth. However, I’ve also been told by calculating my ecological footprint (http://www.footprintnetwork.org/gfn_sub.php?content=myfootprint) that if everyone lived like me, we would need the resources from 4.3 planets, so my life-style is clearly unsustainable.
What to I really want when I advocate for development? How much of my approach is driven by guilt, by noblesse oblige? Do I simply want to be justified or vindicated somehow?
I don’t really look good in brown, and dread locks aren’t my style – so I already know that I’m excluded from a certain group of ‘granola’ social justice folk. But how do I guard against the “Doing well by doing good” – making a profit off of the supposed benevolence of my work? What do I do when I start treating advocating for poor and hungry people simply as a job and then I go home and splurge on myself?
But is there any place for small splurges? If I say no, I start categorically judging others as well and bind myself to a legalistic list of what is or isn’t right to do with my money. I don’t get this – there are no easy answers. As my coffee mug says, “God knows I try.”
- Walking by Grace
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